Relief and gratitude

When my daughter was 1 1/2 I found out I was pregnant again. I was in shock because I was still breastfeeding often and I was cautious the rare time I had sex. When I saw the test results I was filled with dread. I was already so depleted and exhausted. The thought of having another child seemed terrifying and impossible. I didn’t want to be pregnant.

I’m lucky. I felt safe enough to share what was going on with friends and family. They supported me and understood that I didn’t want another baby. 

I called a nearby clinic and had an appointment within 2 weeks. I was a bit nervous about the procedure and stressed about the recovery with a little one to care for. My mom came with me and my husband took time off work. I was amazed by how wonderful everyone at the clinic was and how cared for I felt. It wasn’t scary or painful for me. I felt relaxed and relieved afterwards. I kept waiting for the grief or shame I thought I was supposed to feel but it never came. I feel immense gratitude that I live in a city where I can access an abortion with such ease and safety. Everyone deserves that. 

I try to share my story whenever I can because I want dispel stigma. And because I’m not ashamed of my choice.

I never wanted kids

I was with my boyfriend for two years when I found out I was pregnant during hurricane Sandy and there were no buses or trains or any kind of transportation for days, power was out for two weeks, I had no battery on my phone and I had no way to contact my boyfriend and tell him. We were doing long distance for a year and he was in ____ state so I couldn’t even go to his house and tell him, I called from a pay phone and told him and we both didn’t know what to do. 

Me and him always said we never ever wanted kids, he even went as far as going to planned parenthood and getting a vasectomy and I always wanted to tie my tubes but I’m too young.... clearly the vasectomy didn’t work and we were pregnant and both confused. We talked and talked for days and decided we’d keep it, we didn’t know how we would pay for an apt. and a baby and my move to ____ state but we’d make it work. I didn’t know how I would graduate college in my last year and have this baby but we would make it work. I told my mom I was pregnant right away and I had her tell my dad because I couldn’t face him, neither were thrilled about it but said no matter what I chose they would support me and love the baby. 


I was still conflicted over everything because I had a life plan and this wasn’t what I planned, I didn’t even want kids and the more I thought about everything I would give up I started becoming unsure about keeping it. I still decided to keep it until my mom sat me down and spoke from her heart and told me she didn’t want to see me struggling because I chose to have this baby and she didn’t want me to give everything up for this baby I didn’t even want in the first place. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make in my entire life, it was emotional and life changing but I chose abortion because in my heart I knew I didn’t want this life and I didn’t want to give up everything I wanted for something that wasn’t even planned. I realized that I could have a baby whenever I wanted but if I had THIS baby I could never ever take that back.

3 days before my 24th birthday I went to the Planned Parenthood that I have been going to since I was 19 and had my abortion. I thought it would be a lot more emotional and I would feel some kind of attachment but I was ok, no tears, no hard feelings – it felt like I was doing the right thing. My doula was amazing and so was the doctor that performed the abortion and all throughout the procedure they made me feel at ease and never once made me think twice about what I was doing. Fast forward a year later: me and my boyfriend ended up breaking up because he was cheating on me throughout the entire relationship.

I’m so grateful for my abortion because I’m not sure I would be who I am today or where I would be if I didn’t get my abortion.

An abortion is emotional and personal and never an easy decision and no one wants to ever have one but shit happens and you can always have another baby when the timing is right and when it’s on your terms, an abortion is painful but you will get over it and day by day you start to think less and less of it but you will never forget it. 

Every year when November 12 arrives I remember the day I had my abortion and when June arrives I remember the day my child would have been born.

No Regrets

I have had two abortions, one at 24 and the other at 26. Both times I was using contraception, the first time condoms, the second the contraceptive patch. Both times I fell pregnant with the same man who was my long term boyfriend and who also could've probably provided for me and a baby financially. So, why did I have an abortion not just once, but twice? Well I just didn't feel ready. Mentally or emotionally I wasn't prepared to give a child what I thought it needed, and I suspected my partner wasn't either. I felt certain of my decision the first time. The second time, not knowing if perhaps this would be my last chance to have a child, some doubt did creep in, but after about two days of serious consideration I knew that those factors did not override my feelings of not being mentally ready to take on such a massive commitment. 

The first time I opted for what is called a 'medical' abortion, believing it was a less invasive procedure. Living in the UK, abortions are actually free but there is a waiting list and it can take up to a few weeks. If you want the termination done as soon as possible then you have to pay for it, so that's what I did the first time. On arriving at the clinic I wasn't particularly nervous as I thought the whole process would be easy, just popping a pill and feeling some discomfort and perhaps experience some bleeding. How wrong I was! There were some protesters outside with quite graphic posters chanting nasty messages at us as we went in. It really pissed me off to think that people could be so judgmental and self-righteous.

I took the pill, was advised to take some paracetamol, go home and let things take their course. After a few hours, a sudden crashing wave of cramps rushed through me and I felt what I can honestly only describe as the worst pain I've ever experienced. Then followed hours on the loo feeling like I'd pass out from how cold I felt and intense vomiting and diarrhea, screaming at my partner that I thought I might be dying. After a call to the clinic and being assured that I was just having a strong reaction to the pill but that I would be ok, I had no choice but to just ride out the excruciating pain until I was so exhausted I fell asleep. The experience traumatized me due to the physical pain I went through, but other than that I have no regrets.

With my second abortion, I chose to have the surgical option. All I remember is lying down in the theatre room one second and the next waking up in a wheelchair being pushed to a recovery room. Apart from feeling a little groggy I felt absolutely fine. I was taken to sit in a room of about 8 other girls until the anesthetic wore off. Some were crying which was disconcerting but I personally knew I'd made the right decision. Fast forward 5 years and I'm pregnant for the third time with the same man, but this time it was planned and we are both happy. I can honestly say neither me nor my partner ever felt moments of regret since the terminations. In fact there have been quite a few moments that have proved to me we made the right decision both times.

Now that I'm nearly 9 months gone I believe that in my twenties, neither I nor my relationship with my now fiancé was strong enough to withstand the emotional toll that pregnancy brings with it, let alone the responsibility of what having a child involves. I also think having those abortions has made this experience all the more special this time round and something I know we are both now completely ready to undertake.

Remembering

This year I am the age my mother was when she had me. For some reason that feels significant. As I write this and my eyes unexpectedly well up, I realize that I have not reflected on my abortion since I had it, except to remind my partner what a shit feminist he can be.

I was never good at remembering when my period was due - I have a string of stained pants to prove it. But the month it happened I remember repeating to myself ‘it should’ve arrived by now surely?’ Maybe the moon’s orbit was out of sink or my cycle had twinned with my menopausal mother’s? As I held the test in my wet hand, wishing away the blue lines, I knew it was not a mistake. I had known already somehow. My body had already started to change, subtle but perceptible changes.

My partner was there when I came out of the toilet and hugged me as I curled up in bed. He told me repeatedly that he’d stand by my decision whatever it was. There was no doubt in my mind – I was getting an abortion. Okay, he said, opening his laptop, this is where you need to go. You’ve been here before, I said. Yes, he replied.

I was so angry and disappointed at him. Yes, I’d been careless too but it felt so wrong that after fathering a life once he had not taken more care for it to never happen again. Now, for the second time he was on the precipice of fatherhood yet he felt no emotional connection to the life we had both created. He felt a lot for me and was there for me, yes, but not for his child to be. He didn’t feel the fear, the life, the loss of another abortion. The inequality of it felt stark.

Between my initial appointment with the doctor and booking the procedure, a week passed. At the time, my relationship with my own mother was strained and I was in the process of taking difficult steps away from what she expected of me. I was trying to plough through the thorns and the fear to become my own person. I remember that for that week, my secret motherhood felt powerful and liberating, giving me the strength to stand up on my own two feet.

I was 7 weeks pregnant and decided to go for the surgical procedure, as it sounded like the most full proof. I remember it being described to me as a vacuum cleaner. Having watched too many documentaries about the 1 in so-many-people who despite anesthetics, feel and hear everything, I was terrified. I had nightmarish visions of the surgeons laughing at me and putting my body into ridiculous positions whilst I was asleep. I felt uncomfortable about leaving my unconscious body to them. I remember the face of the grey-haired aesthetician peering at me as I passed out. All I remember is waking up sobbing uncontrollably - apparently a side effect of anesthetics.

My decision to have an abortion didn’t feel difficult. I was disappointed in my partner and myself for not being more careful but I didn’t have to fight off guilt and my conscience was clear. Waking up to myself bawling uncontrollably was a shock. It felt like my subconscious was letting go of all the unsaid and unformed feelings for the life that had been inside me.

When we finally left, we were met outside by a lone-protestor with a placard. He was there to intimidate people like me on the way in and scar our consciences on the way out.

But we won’t be deterred, because we haven’t done anything wrong.

That’s what makes this space so important. It is a space where we are not alone, and will not be silenced or shamed for exercising our right to our womb. 

"Because women in my family do it on our own."

I'm fifteen. I'm standing in the hallway upstairs at home. "I don't want you to stay over at his place", mum says. Enraged that she won't let me decide what I get to do, I defiantly spit back "If you're worried about us having sex, we can do that anytime!" I can tell my words land like a slap. I'm too mad to feel guilty. She takes a moment to answer "Well I hope you're at least using protection". "Of course we are!"

We weren't. 

A week later, it's been seven weeks since my last period. I bring home a pregnancy test. Pee. Wait. And there's the blue line. I have a problem to solve and I move into action. I call the health clinic and ask for an abortion. I have to go in to the clinic and confirm I am pregnant. I'm indeed pregnant. I get medications to take at home, and an appointment at the hospital for the day. I'm staying at my aunt's that week. I lie about why I need to catch the bus in to town for the day. I get to the the hospital, nervous that my mum will show up at the women's clinic or that the staff will recognize me and tell her. She works at the hospital and we look so much alike. I have the required psychological assessment. It takes no more than 15 minutes. Am I really sure. Do I need any support? I just want to get it over with. The ultrasound confirms I am 10 weeks pregnant. I'm down to the wire for a medical abortion.

I get my own room. They give me a pessary to soften the cervix. The pain is excruciating. I'm told the cramping I am experiencing is like pre-labour. The nurse offers an injection of additional pain relief. My best friend arrives, but she has brought another friend I don't know. I now feel like a zoo animal they have come to look at. Lunch arrives and I can hardly eat. Moments later I vomit. I just about make it to the sink by the side of the bed. When I go to the washroom, clots splash into the bowl. I wonder if one of them is the fetus. I don't remember leaving or getting back home. It's another two weeks before I tell my boyfriend. He looks at me with wounded eyes 'why didn't you tell me?' 

Because women in my family do it on our own. 

Despite growing up in abortion access heaven (Sweden), the internalized shame was too big of a hurdle. 

20 years later, I finally tell my mum. I confess I never told her because I didn't want her to know she was right; that she knew better and I needed her. She says "Well isn't it great that you had access, and it worked, even all those years ago." I'm relived to no longer carry the secret and finally sad that I went through it alone. For the first time, I cry over the loneliness I felt all those years ago.

Over the years, I would sometimes imagine the child we never had. "He would be 5 years now" (I was convinced it was a he). I struggle to even imagine how different my life would have been. I'm grateful for everything that came since.

Part of the abortion stigma is the myth that surgical abortions can cause scarring that impact fertility. Knowing what I know now, I wish that option had been offered and encouraged at the time. Later term medical abortions are more intense because of the size of the fetus at that point. 10 weeks (or 70 days since last menstrual period) is the last recommended use of RU-486.